Norwich City tame Manchester United at Fortress Carrow Road

The lady who sits next to me in the City Stand was quite cross. “5.30 kick off” she complained “means I’m missing Strictly Come Dancing, and this week it’s from Wembley.”

I made sympathetic noises and suggested she watch Strictly later, on BBC i-player. “I don’t have a computer” she retorted, “so it better be a good game.”

It was. Norwich outplayed, outthought, and outfought Manchester United, thoroughly deserved their 1-0 victory and might have had two more goals. The whole team played well. City’s purple patch continues. United may have won nine out of their previous ten league fixtures, but they were well beaten on Saturday. Norwich are now undefeated in their last six games, have won their last three home league fixtures without conceding a goal, have taken 11 points out of a possible 15, and have kept their fifth clean sheet of the campaign.

To be fair on this occasion Sir Alex Ferguson blamed no one for his side’s defeat. He gave credit to Norwich for playing fantastically well. Even the MOTD team agreed. Of course Hansen had to mention City’s defeat by Liverpool earlier in the season, but then he destroyed his own credibility by forgetting the fact that the Norwich game was a late kick off.

Manager Hughton named an unchanged side for this game after last week’s hard won point at Reading. United quickly won three corners in quick succession and a couple of free kicks, but the City defence coped admirably, and there were ironic cheers when referee Taylor finally awarded City a free kick. At the other end Snodgrass (twice) and Tettey went close before van Persie completely miskicked when put through by Giggs, much to the amusement of the Norwich fans. So 0-0 at half-time, with the Canaries not being at all overawed by their illustrious opponents, and the expensive United line up creating few clear cut chances.

City continued to attack in the second half, and created several openings on both wings. After 60 minutes their pressure paid off. The impressive Hoolahan found Garrido in space on the left wing, and the full back’s perfect cross was headed beautifully by Pilkington over a despairing dive from keeper Lindegaard. Two minutes later the rampaging Pilkington put in another dangerous cross but United cleared. Sir Alex was clearly rattled and chewed his gum more nervously. After 70 minutes he sent on Scholes and Wellbeck for Valencia and Hernandez. In turn Hughton sent on Morison and Howson for Holt and Hoolahan. Ferguson chewed still more furiously and reinforced his attacking options by replacing a defender (Ferdinand) by an attacker (Anderson).

As United pressed for an equaliser Ruddy and Turner saved a couple of efforts from Wellbeck, and Ruddy brilliantly tipped a defensive header from Bassong over the bar. The tempo rose further as Lindegaard saved from Pilkington. Howson should have scored in the last minute when put through by Morison following a two on one counter attack, but shot wide.

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The fourth official signalled four minutes of extra time. Elliott Bennett replaced the injured Snodgrass. As the Norwich fans encouraged the ref to blow the final whistle, Ruddy made an excellent save from Anderson, with Scholes waiting to pounce on any rebound. Ruddy saved cleanly however, and received a congratulatory pat on the head from Scholes. The whistle finally blew. Carrow Road erupted with exuberance. A City fan near me burst into tears of joy.

The party continued in the Gunn Club as Wes received his Man of the Match award. Picking the Man of the Match must have been a difficult task. Ruddy played well, so did the back four. So did the midfield and the strikers. Van Persie was anonymous, or should I say well controlled by the City centre backs. None of the United players was given the opportunity to justify their (reported) �200,00 a week wages. To complete a perfect day’s football Villa lost 5-0 and Ipswich lost 6-0. Shame.

Then began my long trek home. The journey back home to London was long and cold. I took a train to Witham, a bus from Witham to Billericay, a train from Billericay to Liverpool Street, and a tube from Liverpool Street to my home. There I poured myself a late, large, and celebratory drink, and watched Strictly on BBC i-player. It was OK, but I much preferred the entertainment on offer at Carrow Road earlier in the day. More of the same at Goodison please Chris. As Tess might say “Keep on playing well, and winning!”